Professor B's Blog

Musical Terms

  • Pitch – a tone, pitch defines the location of a tone in relation to others, giving it a sense of high or low; each key on a piano corresponds to a pitch
  • Melody – a tune; a succession of tones (pitches) with a particular rhythm, can move by steps, small jumps, bigger leaps, or have pitch repetitions; can usually detect a general contour or shape to the ups and downs; in a piece with more than one voice or where harmony is present, the melody is the dominant tune
  • Phrase – a musical unit, often a component of a melody, like a single line of poetry, doesn’t have a sense of completion in itself
  • Range, compass – range is the scope of notes (from low to high) that can (or are) produced by a voice/instrument or within a composition, narrow range has fewer notes, wider range has more
  • Dynamics – intensity, volume (loudness, softness)
  • Meter – beats are grouped together in units; meter defines the number of beats in that unit; a stressed beat usually indicates the beginning of a unit
  • Measure – regular group of beats, strong beat is the first one in the measure

4 beats per measure: “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”

3 beats per measure: “Happy Birthday”

  • Rhythm – the subdivision of a space of time into a defined, repeated pattern; the division of music into regular metric portions; regular pulsation of music;

Clap out Happy Birthday, Shave and Two Bits, random pattern (ask them to join)

  • Accompaniment – additional but subordinate music to support a melodic line
  • Form – shape of the music, how phrases are put together to create larger units; for example AABA or verse/chorus
  • Stanza, strophe, verse – group of lines forming a basic metrical unit
  • Strophic – the music which accompanies one stanza of poetry is repeated for subsequent stanzas
  • Chorus – same words and music each time, often meant for multiple voices to sing in harmony
  • Refrain – one or two lines that are repeated with each stanza; can be internal (between couplets) or external (after the lines of the stanza)
  • Texture – the way melody, harmony, and rhythm combine to make a composition; refers to the number of voices , instruments, or groups of instruments (layers) and their relationship to each other at any given moment in a piece
  • Call and response – a musical phrase in which one instrument, voice, or group of instruments or voices presents a musical statement and another instrument, voice, or group answers with its own musical statement.



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